BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jonathan Kellerman's Victims. Jonathan Kellerman is a master at creating psychologically nuanced novels of suspense-an author whose name is synonymous with unrelenting action, intriguing plot twists, and penetrating insight into the criminal mind. Now he ventures into bold, new territory with his biggest and best novel yet. A Cold Heart features Kellerman's brilliant signature style-but in this tour-de-force he mines even deeper the emotional landscape of his characters: psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, Milo's colleague Petra Connor, and Alex's ex-lover, Robin Castagna-bringing them all vividly to life as never before. "I've got a weird one, so naturally I thought of you," says Milo Sturgis, summoning his friend Alex to the trendy gallery where a promising young artist has been brutally garroted on the night of her first major showing. What makes it "a weird one" is the lack of any obvious motive, and the luridly careful staging of the murder scene-which immediately suggests to Alex not an impulsive crime of passion . . . but the meticulous and taunting modus operandi of a serial killer. Delaware's suspicion is borne out when he compares notes with Milo's associate, Petra Connor, and her new partner, a strange, taciturn detective with a past of his own named Eric Stahl. The Hollywood cops are investigating the vicious death of Baby Boy Lee, a noted blues guitarist, fatally stabbed after a late-night set at a local club. What links Baby Boy's murder with that of painter Juliet Kipper is the shadowy presence of an abrasive fanzine writer. This alias-shrouded critic's love-the-art/disdain-the-artist philosophy and his morbid fascination with the murders leads Alex and the detectives to suspect they're facing a new breed of celebrity stalker: one with a fetish for snuffing out rising stars. Tracking down the killer proves to be maddening, with the twisting trail leading from halfway houses to palatial mansions and from a college campus to the last place Alex ever expected: the doorstep of his ex-lover Robin Castagna, whose business association with two of the victims casts her as an unavoidable player in the unfolding case. As more and more killings are discovered, unraveling the maddening puzzle assumes a chilling new importance-stopping a vicious psychopath who's made cold-blood murder his chosen art form.
"This one's a twister, isn't it " Kellerman is at it again with number 17 in his highly successful series starring smooth L.A. psychologist Alex Delaware. In this latest installment, Delaware is called in (via Homicide pal Milo Sturgis) to consult on a string of bizarre murders of fringe artists on the verge of stardom. The victims-a bluesman out of rehab, a punk diva screaming her way toward a record deal, a rising young concert pianist and an abstract painter-seem utterly unrelated. Their only connection, as Delaware shrewdly notes, is that each is "[a] gifted, damaged soul snuffed out violently, during the first blush of comeback." Rounding out the investigative team is Det. Petra Connor (reprising her role from previous Kellerman books), this time paired with spooky, skinny Eric Stahl, a silent ex-soldier with a sweaty fear of hospitals. The clues appear in an underground zine covering art in absurdly pretentious tones ("This is DANCE as in paleo-instinctuo-bioenergetics") in articles signed by the "Faithful Scrivener," and lead the team to encounters with some of the weirder denizens of the City of Angels. Of course, Kellerman provides a meaty layer of interpersonal relationships beneath the surface of his plot, so that longtime fans can tune into the latest episode of Delaware's tense friendship with his ex, Robin, which is not where he hoped it would be, but which he handles with his usual aplomb ("When in doubt, ask about the dog"). That Robin's occupation places her squarely in the killer's crosshairs wraps things up nicely. Booksellers should have little trouble moving this along. Agent, Barney Karpfinger. Major ad/promo. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 29, 2003
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Excerpt from A Cold Heart by Jonathan Kellerman
The witness remembers it like this:
Shortly after 2 a.m., Baby Boy Lee exits the Snake Pit through the rear alley fire door. The light fixture above the door is set up for two bulbs, but one is missing, and the illumination that trickles down onto the garbage-flecked asphalt is feeble and oblique, casting a grimy mustard-colored disc, perhaps three feet in diameter. Whether or not the missing bulb is intentional will remain conjecture.
It is Baby Boy's second and final break of the evening. His contract with the club calls for a pair of one-hour sets. Lee and the band have run over their first set by twenty-two minutes, because of Baby Boy's extended guitar and harmonica solos. The audience, a nearly full house of 124, is thrilled. The Pit is a far cry from the venues Baby Boy played in his heyday, but he appears to be happy, too.
It has been a while since Baby Boy has taken the stage anywhere and played coherent blues. Audience members questioned later are unanimous: Never has the big man sounded better.
Baby Boy is said to have finally broken free of a host of addictions, but one habit remains: nicotine. He smokes three packs of Kools a day, taking deep-in-the-lung drags while onstage, and his guitars are notable for the black, lozenge-shaped burn marks that scar their lacquered wood finishes.
Tonight, though, Baby Boy has been uncommonly focused, rarely removing lit cigarettes from where he customarily jams them: just above the nut of his 62 Telecaster, wedged under the three highest strings, smoldering slowly.
So it is probably a tobacco itch that causes the singer to leap offstage the moment he plays his final note, flinging his bulk out the back door without a word to his band or anyone else. The bolt clicks behind him, but it is doubtful he notices.
The fiftieth Kool of the day is lit before Baby Boy reaches the alley. He is sucking in mentholated smoke as he steps in and out of the disc of dirty light.
The witness, such that he is, is certain that he caught a glimpse of Baby Boy's face in the light and that the big man was sweating. If that's true, perhaps the perspiration had nothing to do with anxiety but resulted from Baby Boy's obesity and the calories expended on his music: For 83 minutes he has been jumping and howling and swooning, caressing his guitar, bringing the crowd to a frenzy at set's end with a fiery, throat-ripping rendition of his signature song, a basic blues setup in the key of B-flat that witnesses the progression of Baby Boy's voice from inaudible mumble to an anguished wail.
There's women that'll mess you
There's those that treat you nice
But I got me a woman with
A heart as cold as ice.
A cold heart,
A cold, cold heart
My baby's hot but she is cold
A cold heart,
A cold, cold heart
My baby's murdering my soul . . .
At this point, the details are unreliable. The witness is a hepatitis-stricken, homeless man by the name of Linus Leopold Brophy, age thirty-nine but looking sixty, who has no interest in the blues or any other type of music and who happens to be in the alley because he has been drinking Red Phoenix fortified wine all night and the Dumpster five yards east of the Snake Pit s back door provides shelter for him to sleep off his delirium tremens. Later, Brophy will consent to a blood alcohol test and will come up .24, three times the legal limit for driving, but according to Brophy barely buzzed.